Lives well lived

Written by Sara Garrison

Matt Sheets

Loyal, generous and gracious are just a few words to describe local entrepreneur and successful businessman, Matt Sheets, who passed away on September 21 at age 62.

Matt was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He was the second son of three boys. Matt graduated from Wichita Southeast High School and the University of Kansas where he was a proud member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.

After college, Matt worked for Phil Ruffin. He then worked for Larry Cooley with L.C. Enterprises, owning and operating numerous successful business ventures until his retirement at age 50.

After his retirement, Matt was a partner of Mort’s Cigar and Martini Bar in Old Town with his brother, Morrie, and operating partner Emma Russell.

“Matt was not just my brother. He was my best friend. He was so genuine and fun. We would talk five or six times a day on the phone and have lunch five or six times each week. I miss him terribly,” says Morrie Sheets. “In business, Matt had the incredible ability to motivate and bring the best out in his employees. Our employees love him. He was approachable and his favorite task to do at Mort’s was the chalkboard each day. That chalkboard was his outlet where his fun personality really came through.”

Matt met his wife, Sharon, through a mutual friend. They were married on Sept. 20, 2014 and it was the first marriage for both. Matt and Sharon were inseparable. They spent all day, every day, together.

“When I met Matt, I always knew I would marry him someday. He was my everything,” says Sharon Sheets. “If you knew Matt Sheets, you were very lucky. He is missed.”

Matt was a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder. He loved KU and was an active member at Crestview Country Club. An avid golfer who loved golfing each day, Matt’s crowning achievement took place in June 2019 when he scored a hole-in-one on Hole 17 at Crestview.

Matt Sheets was an inspiration to all who knew him. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of generosity and friendship.

“Matt was such a generous man. He made such a difference in the community. He would bring hamburgers to the homeless who were waiting in line at the Lord’s Diner. Our dad taught us to be givers and Matt lived that,” says Morrie. ”Matt truly believed if you have a good positive attitude and treat people right and with respect, then you can change the world.”

Another example of Matt’s generosity took place each year during the cold winter months. He would keep extra coats and socks in his car to hand out to the homeless. If he didn’t have an extra coat to give, Matt would take off the coat he was wearing and give it to the person in need.

“Matt loved to help others and make people smile. Matt’s everyday generosity and caring were extraordinary,” says Sharon. “Matt bought houses for people, bought cars for people and even gave people his cars. He paid for weddings, funerals, college classes and bills others were having trouble paying. All without being recognized or asking for anything in return. He didn’t want any recognition. He just enjoyed giving and helping people. He truly wanted to make people’s lives better.”

“Matt treated everyone with kindness and respect,” Sharon continues. “He would always say, ‘Be kind and listen. Everyone has a story worth hearing.’ ”

Kristen Turner

A bubbly and outgoing young woman with a bright spirit and a vibrant smile, Kristen Turner, passed away in a car accident on April 19 at age 18.

Kristen was raised in Andover, Kansas. She attended Andover schools and graduated from Penn Foster on January 18, 2018. At the time of her passing, Kristen was working as a certified nurse assistant and was pursuing her dreams of going to college to one day become a nurse practitioner.

“Kristen would brighten any room with her beautiful smile,” says Tammy Turner, Kristen’s mom. “She was outgoing and kind. She had never met a stranger and she always had the confidence and drive to accomplish anything she put her mind to.”

Throughout her childhood, Kristen participated in cheer competitions with Cheer Fusion and Cheer Eclipse. She had a strong faith and believed in the Lord. Her favorite Bible verse was Philippians 4:13 that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She had the verse tattooed on her body because its meaning spoke so much to her.

Kristen also enjoyed spending time with her friends and her dog, Saige. She loved shooting her bow, fishing, working out at the gym, hunting and camping.

“Kristen would always tell me, ‘Life is so short. I don’t know how long I have,’ says Tammy. “Kristen really believed in living life to the fullest.”

“Kristen brightened every room with her beautiful smile and caring personality,” says Jody Klein. “We met her through competitive cheer, and the younger girls including my daughter were always drawn to her because she loved kids! She was my kids’ favorite babysitter and mine, because she was such a great role model for my children. Even though her time was cut short, she made a lasting impact on everyone she met.”

Family was also a very important part of Kristen’s life; she was protective and loyal and she loved spending time with her family. A wonderful daughter who had a very special bond with her mother, Tammy, Kristen also enjoyed supporting her dad Rick and brothers, Kiefer and Kaleb as they raced at the Kansas International Dragway.

“Kristen meant everything to me. She was my only daughter and part of me died that day. The hard part of a loss like this is that you think of what you are going to miss. She would have been a wonderful new aunt and a great nurse and we will never watch her accomplish her dreams or see her get married and have children,” says Tammy. “I couldn’t have been more proud of Kristen as her mother. She accomplished so many wonderful things in life.”

Ryan Finn

Local entrepreneur, mentor and beloved Maize South Elementary 5th-grade teacher, Ryan Finn passed away after a battle with cancer on Dec. 4 at age 41.

A graduate of Northwest High School, Ryan earned his undergraduate and Masters degrees from Wichita State University, where he graduated with honors. As a teacher for more than 13 years in the Maize School District, he had a true passion for teaching that shone through even his last few weeks of life.

“Ryan struggled with his grades as a young child, but he blossomed as a senior in high school and became an honors student,” says Rose Finn, Ryan’s mother. “This experience made him a great teacher. He understood the kids that struggled in school. His teaching style was different, but it worked.”

“School and teaching was his passion,” explains Pat Finn, Ryan’s dad. “He worked until two weeks before he died. He was in pain, but teaching was paramount in his life. He wanted to be with the kids.”

As a teacher, Ryan was known for being laid-back, kind and relatable. He taught his class in an engaging, yet unconventional way. It became a tradition that students in Mr. Finn’s current class were referred to as "Finn's Finnions".

“Students liked that he took the time to get to know them and their interests,” says Meg Thimmesch, principal at Maize South Elementary. “Typically, when I would walk into Mr. Finn's classroom I would find him sitting on the couch at the back of his room chatting or working with a student. His students will miss his joking manner, his kindness, and how he made them feel special.”

Many parents sent letters to Mr. Finn in recent months as his health declined. In the letters, multiple parents shared that Ryan made their child believe they could learn, and he consequently changed the child’s life. The letters said they would be forever grateful for Mr. Finn.

In addition to teaching, Ryan was the co-owner of A Better Bar Service. In his spare time he loved to travel, do home improvement projects and spend time with his family and friends. He was a wonderful uncle and was the favorite to all of his nieces and nephews.

Ryan loved sports, especially the University of Notre Dame and WSU. He was an avid soccer player, earning all-state honors and playing on the 1996 Wichita Northwest High School State Championship team before going on to play in college. He never lost his love for soccer and made several trips to Europe to watch various professional teams.

Ryan was an incredible, sincere and loyal friend who lived life to the fullest. He positively impacted the lives of all who knew him and will be missed by all who experienced his engaging personality and zest for life.

“I have never heard anyone say one bad word about Ryan. He always treated people well,” says Pat. “I don’t know anyone that had more friends. He was friends with everyone. He was such a loyal friend. You could ask him to do anything and he would always help.”

“Mr. Finn demonstrated how we should all live,” says Thimmesch. “His legacy continues on in those he taught to love learning and love life.”

 
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